Gershwin: Porgy and Bess

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WORKS: Porgy and Bess
PERFORMER: Alvy Powell, Marquita Lister, Lester Lynch, Monique McDonald, Nicole Cabell, Linda Thompson Williams, Leonard Rowe, Robert Mack; Members of the Tennessee State University Band; Members of the Blair Children’s Chorus; Nashville Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/
CATALOGUE NO: 475 7877
Operas frequently undergo revision


before or after their first nights, and

Broadway shows almost invariably

do: so it’s hardly surprising to

discover that George Gershwin’s

1935 ‘Broadway opera’ Porgy and Bess

has survived in an ‘original version’

differing markedly from the standard

printed text. What is unusual is that

the standard version was published

before the first night. So most of

the differences in what was actually

performed on Broadway are cuts,

some small and some swingeing,

imposed to bring a monster score

of over three hours down to a more

manageable length. But inspired

second thoughts improve the flow

of several scenes, there’s previously

overlooked music for a marching

band, and Mauceri and his colleagues

have also gleaned information from

the original band parts and prompt

book – even if the final result

still seems to owe a lot as well to

accumulated performing traditions.

Although some of the last-Act

cuts come close to obscuring the

story-line, for the most part this version is extremely effective in

removing the work’s longueurs and

heightening its theatricality. And it’s

very well served by the performance,

with Powell and Lister in the title

roles leading a strong cast, lean and

hungry orchestral playing, and a

vivid recording. If Rattle’s somewhat

plusher, and starrier, Glyndebourne

account remains the benchmark,

that’s largely because there are

passages in the standard version

one wouldn’t want to be without.

But Mauceri makes a strong case for

this fascinating alternative version

of Gershwin’s dramatically powerful


masterpiece. Anthony Burton